Success prompts expansion plans

Foodstuffs South Island chief executive Steve Anderson.
Foodstuffs South Island chief executive Steve Anderson.

Foodstuffs has big plans for Raeward Fresh, intending to expand the Christchurch-born brand across the South Island.

Foodstuffs chief executive Steve Anderson said this week he hoped to see 8-10 stores across the South Island within the next few years.

He said because of its smaller scale and ease of set-up, Raeward Fresh had greater growth potential than supermarkets, which could "take years to get up and running".

Raeward Fresh was started as a roadside stall by Christchurch's Thomas family, and had evolved into three large produce stores when it was bought by Foodstuffs co-operative in 2012.

The supermarket giant has since added a fourth store in Marshlands.

Anderson said the company was looking at a number of South Island locations, but would not disclose specifics. "I think we've got a real gem here, and we've just got to nurture it and grow it."

Brent Thomas, whose family began Raeward Fresh, still owns the flagship Harewood branch.

Because Foodstuffs is a co-operative, it owns the Raeward Fresh brand, but individual owner-operators run the stores.

Thomas said he was "very pleased" to hear about the expansion.

Before selling, he said, "we were keen to see the brand grow, but didn't really have the resources or the energy after the earthquake to do it".

He said being part of Foodstuffs did not mean sourcing through centralised suppliers, and each store could retain a local feel.

"We still buy all our produce locally, through the markets and direct off growers. That's a really big part of our business, and we like to keep that connection."

Anderson said maintaining Raeward Fresh's localised differences was vital to the brand.

"The last thing we want is a cookie cutter approach to stores. We want people to register the difference between local catchments, and in order to do that, you have to have the ability to buy from local suppliers."

Anderson said the trend toward buying more organic or locally-grown goods had served Raeward Fresh well.

"We saw this as being like the farmers' market, or roadside stall, but with sophistication. That was one of the key appeals of the brand when Foodstuffs bought it."

He said the benefit to store-owners of becoming part of the co-operative was in the collective purchasing power, which kept grocery prices down, as well as stronger supply chain infrastructure and advertising.

Anderson said Foodstuffs' North Island co-operative was able to use the Raeward brand as desired, but North Island stores were not imminent.

Foodstuff also owns the brands New World, Pak 'n Save, and Four Square.